As much as I hate to be the person who likes the Red in Santa Cruz, I do. In spite of its prickly, hipster bartenders, abundance of over-cologned under-clued people (the drunk chicks are the worst, I hope I’m not being hypocritical here), and four-person deep bar wait on weekends, it really is a great place to eat. Tom and I passed by Gabriella Cafe, which was billed as one of Santa Cruz’s most romantic restaurants, but passed on the mid-$20s dishes. I’ve eaten at the Red before and never been disappointed by the food, which is also why I put so much credence into the food at 515, their sister restaurant they opened a few years ago.
This time, we went a little bananas. Black tiger prawns (huge! breaded! not greasy!) with guacamole and chips ($9), a panzanella salad (pretty much a BLT in salad form, a huge dish of lettuce topped with fat, soft croutons, bacon, red onions, and toasted cherry tomatoes – $8) for starters. Their drink selection is also top-notch, like four pages long of specialty cocktails using their organic, house-infused vodkas and local, microbrew, and imported beers and wines–I had an organic Samuel Smith’s apple cider for $6.50 and we split a flight of red wines, five generous pours for $15. For entrees, I got a pasta carbonara with poached egg on top ($9) and Tom got a pan-seared rib eye on top of fantastically succulent potato gnocchi and spinach in a pumpkin sage cream sauce ($18). Fuck, those gnocchi were good. His dish definitely beat mine, but I had really wanted to taste a restaurant carbonara. Although their bacon was supreme (chunks, probably cut from a slab as opposed to diced up slices of bacon… most grocery stores don’t sell bacon as a whole slab), it was the highlight of the dish and there wasn’t much to the sauce (no cheese?) anyway. Also, we took half of the food home to boot. I’m eating the leftovers of my panzanella salad for breakfast. Yummy breakfast.